I have an ambivalent relationship with coffee. It was late in life when I began to drink it, and I have never been able to fully commit to a monogamous bond. As a result, there are weeks, months and sometimes years when I go off it for tea, pu-erh, a dark fermented tea from Yunnan, China my latest affair, or Meyer lemon juice with hot water. When I am in India, chai with buffalo milk and cardamom is the only way to go, but, after I return, eventually coffee comes back to haunt me. When that happens, I pull out my Japanese Hario scale, fresh roasted beans and drum up the best pour-over of which I am capable. Many of you already know how critical or discerning depending on your view, I am about food. Believe me, coffee and tea are subject to the same scrutiny.
Just for starters, I want a taste so clean that nothing filters out or stands between me and my relationship to the coffee’s country of origin. Traveling through taste can be a multi-leveled journey to unusual sites around the world. The terroir of Ethiopia is in the coffee beside me at this very moment. I taste the qualities of its soil, I hear the voices of workers as they harvest the cherries, I feel a hot sun tempered by a quiet breeze as the day grows late in the rolling hills of the Yirgachefe District. The taste of floral, specifically lavender, coats my palate. Rich, round, full-bodied…I am beginning to sound like a set of tasting notes, yes, a few tasting notes to share. Not into dark roasts, this coffee is enough to make me commit! Long relationship guaranteed.
Several months back I posted a blog for Locals Only on Portola Coffee Lab in the OC. Today, for the second time, I must share my enthusiasm for another. Saint Frank on Polk Street in San Francisco is around the corner from Biondivino and across the street from Verbena (in former posts). I inadvertently discovered Saint Frank, named for Saint Francis the patron saint of San Francisco, when looking over a food-site on the web. What took me so long? Covering a coffee house was not on the agenda today, but this one happened to be in the neighborhood in which we needed to do an errand so we decided to check it out.
I sit, coffee in hand, surrounded by other writers and coffee hounds. Teas, available as well. Saint Frank opened last October and immediately zoomed into the national top rated coffee house lists on several media sites. Good publicists no doubt, but from my experience with this initial cup, it deserves the good press.
The philosophy of the owners for how they conduct business-described on St Frank’s website is admirable. The project in Burundi is impressive.
Meaningful connection with customers, coffee farmers, and roasters underlies the interactions at Saint Frank. The owners have installed a state-of-the-art espresso maker that fits under the counter. With machines and gadgetry down under nothing separates the barista from the customer. Conversation plausible, the feng shui could not be better! The uncluttered opens into unbounded space.